Fenty's Fitness for Office
The Discipline That D.C. Mayor Brings to Cycling, Running Also Marks Politics, Some Say
By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 30, 2008; B01
It's a part of his routine that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has tried to keep private from Washington.
Many know that Fenty (D), a triathlete, likes to start his mornings with an early run three times a week. But what's little known are his twice-weekly midday cycling and swimming sessions, reserved by his staff as two-hour blocks of personal time.
Racing across town yesterday from a news conference in Southeast Washington, Fenty guided his maroon Trailblazer to the curb of his brother's house in Northwest. It was shortly after noon, and Fenty was ready to join D.C. Velo, a competitive cycling team, for its training session through Rock Creek Park. The mayor rushed inside, shed his navy blue suit and emerged in a skintight, red-white-and-blue cycling uniform.
"You've got to squeeze it in. If it's a priority, you'll find the time," Fenty said of his workout after he had completed a 33.8-mile course in about 90 minutes. "To be honest, there are times I wish I could be out there longer."
Fenty regards these sessions as strictly private, although some of his critics might wonder what the city's top elected official is up to during those four hours each week.
According to mayoral aides, Fenty doesn't even tell them what he's up to when he heads off to cycle around Hains Point or swim laps at Yates Field House at Georgetown University. Occasionally, during afternoon staff meetings, some aides have noticed lines on Fenty's face left by tight swimming goggles, but no one had the guts to ask about them, they said.
Still, mayoral spokeswoman Carrie Brooks defended her boss's right to take some time off, considering that he often logs 12-hour days. Yesterday, for example, Fenty began his day with a 6:45 a.m. appearance on a television show and ended it with a 7 p.m. community meeting in Georgetown, she said.
If anything, the mayor's training partners said, his exercise regimen is a metaphor for his governing style: disciplined, relentless, willing to work hard. In his personal fitness campaign, the commitment is evident in the times he is clocking in weekend road races. This year, he ran his personal best for 10 miles (65 minutes) and the marathon (3 hours 40 minutes), and his triathlon times are better than ever.
"I connect that athletic discipline to his professional pursuits," said Charles Brodsky, founder of the Nation's Triathlon, who often trains with Fenty.
The mayor invites anyone who can keep up to join his morning runs. But the cycling group consists strictly of D.C. Velo teammates, and Fenty was initially reluctant to allow a reporter to observe.
The group yesterday consisted of his older brother Shawn Fenty, who manages their parents' athletic-shoe store; Sgt. Kenneth Young, the Marine Corps' 2008 male athlete of the year; semiprofessional triathlete Espen Kateraas (who has a Web site); lawyers Mark Sommers and Jeff Horowitz; health coach Lloyd Henry; and graduate student Michelle Harburg, the sole woman.
After departing from Shawn Fenty's house, the pack made its way across 13th Street, left on Arkansas Avenue, about seven miles through Rock Creek Park, then out to a three-mile loop around Hains Point, where it filed into a larger group of about 50 cyclists. Fenty, though a novice by competitive cycling standards, kept up with the pack, which traveled up to 30 mph.
Harburg, who began running and biking with Fenty after a mutual friend brought her to a training session, said Fenty rarely falls behind. "The only time I saw him get dropped was [the day] after he had run a marathon or had some really hard race," she said.
Fenty, 37, who has been running competitively since high school, took up cycling a few years ago after joining Shawn on a training ride during a family vacation.
"He had a ball," Shawn, 43, said. And he invested in an expensive, carbon-fiber Cannondale.
At 6 feet and 180 pounds, Fenty appears the picture of fit, but he hasn't always been that way. In 2000 -- the year his twin sons were born, he wrapped up a long campaign for a D.C. Council seat, and he and his wife renovated their kitchen -- Fenty did not run a single time. He also reached about 215 pounds, Shawn said.
By late 2001, however, Fenty was putting in the mileage again. He was in the midst of training for a marathon in 2003 when he fainted at a news conference held to announce anti-smoking legislation; that's why he is so often seen with a bottle of VitaminWater, colleagues said.
These days, Fenty's weekly training regimen includes one or two long-distance runs, a "speed workout" at the track at Gallaudet University, a couple of cycling sessions and a swim.
By the time Fenty was back at his brother's house yesterday it was almost 2 p.m. He dismounted, went inside for a shower and emerged in his suit, red tie carefully knotted. Aide Veronica Washington returned with the sport-utility vehicle.
Fenty then drove off to a news conference at a nearby firehouse to announce fireworks regulations. As the cameras rolled, beads of sweat glistened on his head.